We like to think that all clients are important… and they are. Our goal is to do good work for all clients and deliver a high level of service to each of them… and we strive for that every day.
But the fact is… your large clients are more important than your small clients!
It’s your large clients that truly pay all the bills and allow you to keep the lights on. It’s the big revenue from these firms that allow you to invest back into your company… to hire new employees, add services and do more marketing.
Don’t get me wrong… all clients and all revenue are important, but think of it this way… If you lose a client that’s generating 3% of your revenue, you’ll likely weather that storm just fine. But what happens if a client generating 33% of your revenue switches suppliers? Now you’ve got real problems… like making payroll.
In our industry, there’s an interesting phenomenon at many small and mid-sized firms… often, 2, 3 or 4 clients account for 40-50-60% (or more) of a firm’s revenue. And while having those large clients is great, those firms are just one bad project or one lost contact away from losing those clients. And yet, beyond the project work, these firms are rarely working to strengthen and deepen their relationships with these large clients.
If you find your firm is in this “top heavy” position, don’t fret… there are a number of relatively easy things you can do to make sure these current clients stay your clients for a long time to come.
At the top of the list… communicate frequently and consistently. If your clients are working with you every 4-6 months, for example, what are you doing in-between projects to stay top-of-mind with them? If you’re not in their ear, your competitors will be. Here’s a list of easy-to-do activities for you to consider:
- Make sure they’re subscribers to your monthly eNewsletter
- Have a consistent presence on social media, so they see you when they’re online
- Conduct post-project customer satisfaction surveys; not only is this another communication touchpoint, but it can provide feedback to help you get better at what you do (which will also enhance your relationship with them)
- Send them links to interesting articles you find online (use Google Alerts to find those articles)
- And pick up the phone occasionally and talk with them
While emails and phone calls are a good start… for your large clients, nothing is more important than “being there.” Even if they’re a thousand miles away, hop a plane and go spend time with them! And two effective ways to spend your time with a large client are to:
- Present a lunch-n-learn to their staff. Not a sales pitch, but an informational presentation on industry trends, new technology, new methodologies, etc. Not only does this position you as a Subject Matter Expert, but it provides you the opportunity to get to know more people in your client’s organization (to prepare for the off-chance that your key contact decides to leave).
- Take your key contact(s) out for a nice dinner. And don’t talk too much business. Get to know them as people. Remember, “People do business with people they like”… and nothing can help with that more than sitting down together and just chatting.
Enough already with those unoriginal, thank you emails. Instead, get in the habit of sending handwritten thank you notes – after meetings, after projects, in appreciation for a referral, etc. I’d even suggest expanding the use of handwritten note cards to include other occasions – for their birthday, when their child gets into college, when they get a promotion, etc. Each will take less than 5 minutes to write and will help you to stand out from virtually every other supplier.
More impactful, though, is sending tangible gifts as a show of gratitude. Think about it – if one of your large clients spends $30-40-50,000 (or more!) with your firm, isn’t that worth the price of a small gift? Two of my favorite gift sources are: www.1800Flowers.com and www.Wine.com.
Cross-sell and Up-Sell
While this might seem a little counter-intuitive, when you’re in the midst of a project and suggest additional ways to work together – ways that truly benefit the client – you are positioning yourself as less of a vendor and more of a trusted advisor (not to mention generating some incremental revenue for your firm).
Most of this will fall into two categories:
- Up-selling: selling ‘more of the same’ product/service you’re already selling… more units, more frequency or, perhaps, selling to other departments or to an expanded geography.
- A client wants to get feedback from scores of their users across the country, utilizing low-cost paper diaries. You recommend, instead, that the study be conducted using smart phone mobile diaries. While a more-expensive option, you show your client all the benefits of how that will provide them with richer insights.
- Cross-selling: selling a product/service that’s complimentary to what they’re currently buying.
- Your client wants you to conduct a nationwide survey to test some key advertising concepts. You recommend that first, you conduct some in-person focus groups to make sure you ask the right questions during the survey.
We’re all familiar with the old 20/80 rule… that 20% of your clients generate 80% of your revenue. The question is, how do you to ensure that those 20% of your clients keep coming back? The answer is simple, but not easy: Make sure the continued patronage of your large clients is a priority for your marketing & sales efforts moving forward. Don’t wait… get started today!
A Special Note:
If you’re involved in business development for your firm – but also have other responsibilities – we invite to learn more about our Seller-Doer Workshop, an online sales training event starting July 26th. The program focuses on acquiring new clients, keeping existing ones (including large clients!) and creating a personalized sales plan. Learn more at www.SellerDoerWorkshop.com. Early Bird registration ends June 26th.